FTC files suit against AT&T for 'deceptive & unfair data throttling'

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2014
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday announced that it has filed suit against AT&T, alleging that the wireless carrier's practice of promising unlimited mobile data and then throttling download speeds amounted to unfair and deceptive practices.




AT&T misled consumers by not properly informing them that their download speeds would be throttled, according to the commission. Customers who canceled their accounts as a result of the throttling were still charged early termination fees.

"AT&T promised its customers 'unlimited' data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a release. "The issue here is simple: 'unlimited' means unlimited."

The FTC alleges that the level of throttling has been "severe," with speed reductions reaching 80 to 90 percent of the advertised capacity. AT&T is said to have applied the restrictive policy to as many as 3.5 million consumers in the U.S.

Asked about throttling in focus groups, customers "strongly objected" to the idea, the FTC said. Some went so far as to call the practice a "bait and switch."

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 58
    AT&T only cares about making money. Their customer service is bad.
  • Reply 2 of 58
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,059member
    Well, unless they stopped you from actually being able to download, I don't see how 'unlimited data" means unlimited speeds. It just means the amount of data. Slowing your data stream down but still not putting a cap on the amount of data is still technically "unlimited" data.

    I am not condoning the AT&T practice but I think that the FTC needs a dictionary.
  • Reply 3 of 58
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,370member

    If reports are to be believed, the FTC needs to file another suit against AT&T, for locking Apple SIM cards.

  • Reply 4 of 58
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,370member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by chadbag View Post



    Well, unless they stopped you from actually being able to download, I don't see how 'unlimited data" means unlimited speeds. It just means the amount of data. Slowing your data stream down but still not putting a cap on the amount of data is still technically "unlimited" data.



    I am not condoning the AT&T practice but I think that the FTC needs a dictionary.



    The apparent problem is that "unlimited" customers are throttled down preferentially over metered customers, when they both should be throttled equally in the presence of high demand.

  • Reply 5 of 58
    Well if they slow the speeds so much that the web times out or photos/files fail to upload/download then the throttling does keep you from being able to use unlimited data. So i think the FCC and their definition on this is ok.
  • Reply 6 of 58
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by chadbag View Post



    Well, unless they stopped you from actually being able to download, I don't see how 'unlimited data" means unlimited speeds. It just means the amount of data. Slowing your data stream down but still not putting a cap on the amount of data is still technically "unlimited" data.



    I am not condoning the AT&T practice but I think that the FTC needs a dictionary.



    what part of "unlimited" is difficult for you to grasp?  you used it correctly once then completely missed the point the second time.  "unlimited" means no limits.  that means no limit on speed and no limit on quantity/volume/whatever.  LIMITED is an active verb in this case as they are actively LIMITING me... nobody is complaining that we don't get 3Tb/sec of download speed because THAT limit is a practical one (and a passive one as nobody is specifically blocking me from getting 3Tb/sec)

     

    AT&T doesn't TELL me when they throttle me.  they just pick some arbitrary moment each month and cut my speed down to dial-up levels... barely exaggerating.  it goes down to 40K sec down and 400K sec upload.  even more interesting is that if i use the FCC's speed tool to test the speed rather than Speedtest.net or something similar it downloads at 900K.  they do this to HIDE the fact that they are throttling me.  

     

    Adding injury to insult I don't even get a text saying they're going to throttle me or an opportunity to buy more data.  It just slows to a crawl and I get to wait until some other arbitrary date for them to bring the speed back up.  

     

    EFFFFFFF AT&T.  I've been a customer for 8 years now (that's $23,000 in cell charges for me and my family) and think it's ridiculous that they are pulling this crap.  

  • Reply 7 of 58
    roakeroake Posts: 583member
    chadbag wrote: »
    Well, unless they stopped you from actually being able to download, I don't see how 'unlimited data" means unlimited speeds. It just means the amount of data. Slowing your data stream down but still not putting a cap on the amount of data is still technically "unlimited" data.

    I am not condoning the AT&T practice but I think that the FTC needs a dictionary.

    By that logic, 56k analog modem speeds would be perfectly fine since you can still download. Never mind that it would take a month to stream an entire movie...
  • Reply 8 of 58
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,059member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by HerrWaldoRivera View Post

     



    what part of "unlimited" is difficult for you to grasp?  you used it correctly once then completely missed the point the second time.  "unlimited" means no limits.  that means no limit on speed and no limit on quantity/volume/whatever.  LIMITED is an active verb in this case as they are actively LIMITING me... nobody is complaining that we don't get 3Tb/sec of download speed because THAT limit is a practical one (and a passive one as nobody is specifically blocking me from getting 3Tb/sec)

     

    AT&T doesn't TELL me when they throttle me.  they just pick some arbitrary moment each month and cut my speed down to dial-up levels... barely exaggerating.  it goes down to 40K sec down and 400K sec upload.  even more interesting is that if i use the FCC's speed tool to test the speed rather than Speedtest.net or something similar it downloads at 900K.  they do this to HIDE the fact that they are throttling me.  

     

    Adding injury to insult I don't even get a text saying they're going to throttle me or an opportunity to buy more data.  It just slows to a crawl and I get to wait until some other arbitrary date for them to bring the speed back up.  

     

    EFFFFFFF AT&T.  I've been a customer for 8 years now (that's $23,000 in cell charges for me and my family) and think it's ridiculous that they are pulling this crap.  


     

    What part do you not understand?  Show me where AT&T said that the accounts were "unlimited" in all respects?  The unlimited referred to the amount of data.  They would show 500mb / 1Gb 3/Gb / unlimited or similar types of listings.  "Unlimited" is obviously referring to the amount of data.

     

    I am not condoning AT&T's throttling, but AT&T never offered unlimited speed.

  • Reply 9 of 58
    kavokkavok Posts: 51member
    chadbag wrote: »
    Well, unless they stopped you from actually being able to download, I don't see how 'unlimited data" means unlimited speeds. It just means the amount of data. Slowing your data stream down but still not putting a cap on the amount of data is still technically "unlimited" data.

    I am not condoning the AT&T practice but I think that the FTC needs a dictionary.

    Perhaps you do.

    un·lim·it·ed adjective \-?li-m?-t?d\
    : without any limits or restrictions

    : not limited in number or amount

    It doesn't make exceptions for type or amount or speeds or anything.
  • Reply 10 of 58
    yuck9yuck9 Posts: 64member

    AT&T also never said anything about throttling. They just tried to force the grandfathered plan holders in hopes you would leave.

     

    It's time to spell out the plans in black & white. I was able to leave Verizon under this same deal. They started this crap with me, I pulled the plug, went to small clams court and won my ETF back, court cost's and got days wages added on. 

  • Reply 11 of 58
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,059member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Kavok View Post





    Perhaps you do.



    un·lim·it·ed adjective \-?li-m?-t?d\

    : without any limits or restrictions



    : not limited in number or amount



    It doesn't make exceptions for type or amount or speeds or anything.





    Show me where AT&T offered this.  I was on an "unlimited" plan and "unlimited" was ALWAYS in reference to the amount of data downloaded.  It never referred to speed.

  • Reply 12 of 58
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,059member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Yuck9 View Post

     

    AT&T also never said anything about throttling. They just tried to force the grandfathered plan holders in hopes you would leave.

     

    It's time to spell out the plans in black & white. I was able to leave Verizon under this same deal. They started this crap with me, I pulled the plug, went to small clams court and won my ETF back, court cost's and got days wages added on. 


     

    Since they made no speed claims*, they probably did not have to say anything about throttling.

     

    * with regard to "unlimited"

  • Reply 13 of 58
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,059member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Kavok View Post





    Perhaps you do.



    un·lim·it·ed adjective \-?li-m?-t?d\

    : without any limits or restrictions



    : not limited in number or amount



    It doesn't make exceptions for type or amount or speeds or anything.

     

    Can I suggest a trip to remedial English?

     

    "unlimited" does not stand alone.  It is, as you correctly referenced, an "adjective", which modifies a noun.  I think you will find that AT&T always used it in relation to "unlimited data plan" which is amount of data, not speed.

  • Reply 14 of 58
    ibeamibeam Posts: 322member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

     



    The apparent problem is that "unlimited" customers are throttled down preferentially over metered customers, when they both should be throttled equally in the presence of high demand.


    We are on AT&T family share and believe me we get throttled during high demand. Not intentionally managed throttling, but simply bandwidth saturation for example around 5PM weekdays, just tike the highways during rush hour. That is normal. I think what At&T is trying to avoid is bandwidth abusers, like people who are watching a lot of video everyday, because that just puts a constant strain on their service. In the US we just need a lot more back haul bandwidth as well as about five times as many towers, but they are difficult to get permitted, especially in the city.

  • Reply 15 of 58
    2oh12oh1 Posts: 500member
    None of this matters because neither the FTC nor the FCC are going to take any meaningful action. A slap on the wrist confirms to all mobile carriers that there are no consequences.
  • Reply 16 of 58
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,370member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ibeam View Post

     

    We are on AT&T family share and believe me we get throttled during high demand. Not intentionally managed throttling, but simply bandwidth saturation for example around 5PM weekdays...




    "Unlimited" customers are apparently being intentionally throttled, more than the competitive throttling you (and I) experience.

  • Reply 17 of 58
    chadbag wrote: »
    What part do you not understand?  Show me where AT&T said that the accounts were "unlimited" in all respects?  The unlimited referred to the amount of data.  They would show 500mb / 1Gb 3/Gb / unlimited or similar types of listings.  "Unlimited" is obviously referring to the amount of data.

    I am not condoning AT&T's throttling, but AT&T never offered unlimited speed.

    AT&T begins to limit you when they reduce the service they provided during the initial period of the month before hitting their arbitrary caps. If they kept the speeds slow for large users all month they would be fine. It's the change that triggers.
  • Reply 18 of 58
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,514member
    chadbag wrote: »
    What part do you not understand?  Show me where AT&T said that the accounts were "unlimited" in all respects?  The unlimited referred to the amount of data.  They would show 500mb / 1Gb 3/Gb / unlimited or similar types of listings.  "Unlimited" is obviously referring to the amount of data.

    I am not condoning AT&T's throttling, but AT&T never offered unlimited speed.

    I understand you are not siding with AT&T but the term unlimited is open for interpretation depending on context. AT&T is clearly bending the interpretation to their own benefit here. Imagine (as silly extreme example I know) you look at a home for sale, in the middle of a desert that has advertised, guaranteed unlimited water on tap. The salesman shows you the water gushing out, you love the place so you buy. A week after you move in the tap only drips. The salesman returns to argue that at that drip rate you can use all you like it is still unlimited. He states, 'at whatever flow rate we decide you are unlimited to use all you want, where is your problem?'
  • Reply 19 of 58
    ibeamibeam Posts: 322member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

     

    This is not normal.

     

    I'm on T-Mobile and I NEVER GET THROTTLED.  EVER.  I get blazing speed 24/7/365


    It is difficult to try a different carrier when:

     

    1) You are on a family plan where the various device contracts expire on different dates, although now we are synchronized.

     

    2) You never know before you try it if the new carrier is going to have sufficient coverage in the places to regularly travel.

     

    3) Nationwide coverage could be questionable too if you do a fair amount of traveling like I do

     

    I think I read that T-Mobile has the fewest subscribers per tower compared AT&T or Verizon. AT&T definitely has a bandwidth saturation and lack of coverage issue, especially in my neighborhood. I don't even know if there is an AT&T tower nearby but I only get 2 dots signal strength at best. Sometimes I have to go outside to use the phone.

  • Reply 20 of 58
    chadbag wrote: »
    Well, unless they stopped you from actually being able to download, I don't see how 'unlimited data" means unlimited speeds. It just means the amount of data. Slowing your data stream down but still not putting a cap on the amount of data is still technically "unlimited" data.

    I am not condoning the AT&T practice but I think that the FTC needs a dictionary.

    The problem with your logic is that throttling speeds effectively limits the amount of data you can download or upload. Any "unlimited" data plan has to figure both throughput and volume for it to be meaningful, and the FTC is right to call them out on this. The poster who made the dripping water analogy is spot on in this case.
Sign In or Register to comment.